It was only after we moved to the farm that I began to have an appreciation for fences.  I had never paid attention to them except when in college in Kentucky.  There I admired the horse farms with their white wood-rail fences.  That is still a beautiful sight to see – the rolling hills lined with white fences.  When we moved to the farm in Poetry, I learned that fences were necessary to keep some important things in and other things out.  They are used also to outline one’s property.  There is a certain beauty, even nostalgia, to fences in the country; and when you live there, one naturally takes note of them –assessing their design and construction.  My, what a variety of materials are used to build them – barbed wire, pipe, wood planks, cattle panels, wire mesh, vinyl, brick, railroad ties, etc.  However, one thing all fences have in common is that they must be well built in order to achieve their intended purpose – but more about that later.

When our son Mark was in the sixth grade, we allowed him to do something for which we have never regretted.  A teacher in the school at which I was principal had a ranch in South Texas.  Every summer after school ended, Ramona, and her husband Bud, would go and work the ranch.  This is one of the finest couples one would ever want to meet.  They asked if we would allow Mark to go with them for the summer and help out as a “ranch hand.”  With some fear and hesitation, we agreed.  That was one of the best decisions we ever made with Mark.  He loved every minute, and it was an experience which extended well into his teenage years.  Mark learned many things about ranch life, and those experiences have been invaluable to him.  One of the important things Bud taught Mark was to build good fences.  They had cattle, sheep, and goats on the ranch, so there was a great need to build and maintain sturdy fences.

When we moved to the farm, I naturally called the resident expert of the family to come and help me build a fence between the properties, a fence around the goat pen, and repair some existing fences across the front.  With Mark’s help and expertise we did some great work together with barbed wire, T-posts, and corner posts.  We employed a welder to help install a front gate, corners, and supports from pipe material; and we had some good looking fences when finished.  But the defining moment came about a year later when Bud and Ramona came to visit us.   The subject of fences came up in conversation; and Bud learned that Mark had helped build ours, so he wanted to see Mark’s work.  When outside, Bud eyeballed the line of sight, checked the distance between T-posts, the number of strands, the depth of the posts, and the distance of the bottom wire to the ground.  After the inspection, Bud pronounced his hearty approval of the entire project.  Of course, I was pleased, but Mark was ecstatic.  He had passed the test from the master.

These events have caused me to think about how building fences relate to the Christian experience.  We are all in the business of building fences because of the importance of our spiritual walk.  There is spiritual warfare going on and we should be prepared to protect ourselves from the attacks of the evil one.  According to Ephesians 6:10-17, the Lord has given the believer spiritual armor to stand against the devil’s attacks.  The passage describes the warfare that is constantly with us in this life.  Another way to view this conflict is to think in terms of erecting fences to keep the enemy from creeping in and being successful in our lives.

A great story about this idea is found in the book of Nehemiah.  When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem about 430 B.C. after the Babylonian captivity, he saw the city and the city fence (wall) in disrepair.  His mission was to rebuild the wall for the glory of God, but the task was going to be difficult because the enemy was very powerful.  Nevertheless, the fence needed to be built for the protection of the holy city, and to keep the inhabitants safe.  Inside the fence was no place for the enemy, and the same is true of our lives.  Nehemiah had half the work-force building the fence and the other half holding shield and spear.  Warfare was a real possibility, but they kept working on the fence because the people knew the importance of the project (Nehemiah 4).  Fences are necessary to keep the enemy out and the good things of Christ in.  We would do well to check our own spiritual fence.   Is your spiritual fence in such disrepair that Satan has free access to your life?  He is to be feared because he destroys both body and soul in hell (Matt. 10:28).  He came to kill, steal, and destroy (Jn.10:10). Do you need to build a fence?  It can only be built in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Not only do spiritual fences need to be built, they need to be maintained.  It does not take long before a fence needs attention.  Often a fence needs to be straightened because it begins to lean too far in one direction or the other.  There are times when our lives need straightening.  Thankfully, God gave the church and his Holy Spirit to guide and instruct us in our walk of faith.  We can lean too far to the right and become legalistic and judgmental, or too far to the left and forget that the Word of God should be the guiding factor in our life.  Also, we have a responsibility to repair the fence nearest our own home. It must be sturdy. When Nehemiah rebuilt the fence around Jerusalem, each household repaired that part of the fence that was adjacent to its home (Nehemiah. 3) – an important principle to remember in the spiritual growth of family and church. We can become so involved in secular projects and deeds, (however worthwhile they may appear to be), that we forget that our priority is the strengthening and stability of our family.

Occasionally, a fence must be mended.  There are times when we, too, need to “mend fences.”  Jesus set the standard.  He said that if one were offering a gift at the altar and there remembered that his brother has something against him, he should leave his gift there, go and be reconciled to his brother, then offer his gift (Matt. 5:23-24).  While times and customs vary, the principle of reconciliation does not.  Reconciliation was so very important to God that He gave His Son, Jesus Christ, in order that mankind could be reconciled to Him.  And now because of that reconciliation, we, too, can be ministers of reconciliation (2Cor.5:18-19).  The Apostle Paul reminds us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is Mine to avenge, I will repay (Rom. 12:18-19).’”  Solomon said, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offence (Prov. 19:11).”  God calls peacemakers “sons of God” (Matt. 5:9), so fence menders are simply being Godlike.

When my friend Bud gave his nod of approval for the construction of our fence, Mark was pleased.  Similarly, it should be our chief desire to please the Lord and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant…Come and share your Master’s happiness (Matt. 25: 21).”  We should always make it our aim in life to please Him (2 Cor. 5:9).   While we recognize that our salvation does not depend on our own skill in spiritual fence building or how well we mend it, the approval of our Savior is always important in everything we do.  We can never do anything good enough to earn salvation.  It is beyond our ability.  “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).  That is why we put our faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross to accomplish what we could not do for ourselves.

But there will be a day when Jesus returns that we will appear before Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ to receive rewards for faithful service (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:10; 1 Cor.3:11-15)).  This is when our spiritual fence building and mending will be revealed.   My desire then is for the Master Builder to give His nod of approval to my spiritual fences.  I am still building and repairing fences on the farm – it is a never ending project; and we utilize the skills taught us by our good friend, Bud.    I’m still working on my spiritual fences too!  That doesn’t end either until the Lord tells me it does when He calls me home.